21st December is here and Chillai Kalan has arrived. Here is all you need to know about Chillai Kalan.
What is Chillai Kalan?
Chillai Kalan is a 40 day period of harsh winter gripping the Kashmir Valley. It begins on December 21 with the onset of Winter Solstice (the day with shortest period of day light and longest period of night).
Chillai Khurd follows the Chillai-Kalan, and is a shorter period (of 20 days) which begins 31st of January and lasts till 19th of February.
Chillai-Bachha is the last of the chillas and lasts for 10 days between February 20 to 2nd of March.
What does Chillai Kalan mean?
The Kashmiri language is written in Śāradā script, a Brahmic family of scripts, a descendant of Indo-European language family. The Persian is a branch of the same language family. During the Vedic period (~1500 B.C – 500 B.C), the northern India including the Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran (Persia) formed a common culture and used a subset of Indo-European language called Indo-Iranian (or Aryan) language. Hence, there is a lot of similarity noticed even today, in many of the traditions, customs, God names etc., between the Vedic Indians and the Iranians (e.g., Vedic Gods like Indra, Mitra etc., are mentioned in Iranian Avesta Zend.
Chillai or Chelle means forty in Persian and is derived from the word Shab-e-chelle, the persian equivalent of Chillai Kalan.
Kalan in Śāradā means larger.
Khurd in Śāradā means smaller.
Bachha in Śāradā means a kid.
In the past, many families would prepare shebdeg, a delicacy prepared with meat, turnip and spices in an earthern vessel during the night intervening Dec 20-21.
Importance of Chillai Kalan
The snowfall during the chillai kalan feeds the glaciers of the Kashmir Valley and replenishes the perennial reservoirs that feed the rivers and other water bodies during the summer. The snowfall during the other period is ephemeral and hence don’t feed the water bodies much.